Canadian Medical Association

Dedicated wellness training can help improve resident wellness. Establishing this mindset early in a physician’s career can have long-term effects on both physician health and patient care by preventing future wellness issues.

How medical educators support student wellness

Medical educators have an important role to play in fostering a wellness mindset among medical students, residents, mentees and anyone else involved in the learning process.

The CMA’s Code of Ethics and Professionalism considers it a fundamental commitment of the medical profession to “promote a training and practice culture… that responds effectively to colleagues in need and empowers them to seek help.”

Medical educators can take action in three main areas to improve learner wellness:

1. Evaluation

How learners are evaluated has a significant impact on their wellness. A paper published in Medical Education explains that student well-being can be enhanced by educational practices such as: 

  • Well-constructed curricula
  • Effective teaching and learning methods
  • Appropriate assessment procedures
  • Responsive and engaged delivery
  • Ongoing personal contact

2. Feedback

Learners benefit from timely and productive feedback. A paper published in Clinical Rheumatology describes how effective feedback can help students by: 

  • Increasing their comfort expressing themselves
  • Increasing their comfort sharing concerns and mistakes
  • Decreasing their fear of embarrassment, shame, ridicule or retribution

3. Stigma reduction

Much like physicians, medical learners are unlikely to seek mental health treatment. Medical educators should work to reduce stigma and encourage medical students and residents to get help when they need it.

The role of medical institutions

Medical institutions also play an important role in helping medical learners establish a wellness mindset. An institution’s main goal should be to create a psychologically safe learning environment where students and residents feel safe taking interpersonally risky actions, such as asking for help or speaking up.

Leadership expert Amy Edmondson says there are three things leaders can do to foster a psychologically safe environment:

  1. Frame work in a way that positions everyone as being on the same page about risks.
  2. Ask good questions to encourage engagement.
  3. Respond productively by acting on input, not just appreciating it.

An institution that strives to foster a psychologically safe environment is better able to support the wellness of students who are vulnerable to perfectionism* or imposter syndrome.

*Note: This article must be purchased or rented.

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